Habits Create Events.

I’m not much on New Year’s Resolutions any more.  Mostly because the passing of a year doesn’t excite me much, as I’m on my 63rd lap around the sun.  I’m grateful and humbled to still be running laps, to be sure.

What I’m left with, then, is a bit banal and boring — and perhaps the essence of creating opportunities that are not boring, but inspiring and enriching.


So here are what I’m reminding myself about my habits this new year:

Habit #4:  Show up where you’re supposed to.

Woody Allen is credited with saying “80% of success is just showing up.”  Somewhere else he said it was just 70%.

James Caan said “Showing up every day isn’t enough. There are a lot of guys who show up every day who shouldn’t have showed up at all.”  I get his qualifying point — show up where you’re supposed to.

Habit #3: Get back up.  Just one more time than you fall.

That’s trite as well — trite and true.  I’m not saying we keep doing what doesn’t work — that’s stupid, but I am saying, “Never. Give. Up.”

Habit #2: Habits create events. so get your habits right, and expect good, meaningful, joyful events.

This is similar to #1, in that our habits create opportunities and exacerbate failures. Wealth comes from frugality, industry, and integrity, not lotteries.  Habits are the cement in our foundation’s concrete — what hardens us to handle our trials.  And ‘NO’, playing the lottery a lot — a habit, does not increase the odds of ever winning it.

Habit #1: Part of getting your habits right is avoiding a focus on your failures and the associated anxieties and deliberately remembering your successes and the sense of fulfillment and contentment they continue to give.  The former motivates you from fear; the latter motivates you from joy.

Like the joy waking up knowing my blog post needs polishing, to sharpen it.

Happy New Year




An Igniteful Question

My rabbi of almost 30 years, a genuine talmid chacham began a lesson saying, ‘Answers are easy, it is the questions that are hard.’  This speaks to the idea that questions are more elemental and full of potential, and in practice, ignite the imagination and inspire us to challenge our limitations.

For example, I like to reward myself after what I think has been a successful day of triaging an enterprise’s expert team. The work is intellectually intoxicating and fulfilling. The quip, ‘I can’t believe someone pays me to do this!’, attributed to the legendary novelist  John MacDonald, fits my feelings.  My at-a-boy is a nice steak at a recommended steak house. (I do not expense anything above my published per diem rate, to be sure).

So the first question is easy enough; “Where is a great steak house?”  The answer typically offers a choice of two or three.  But once seated and menued, the next question is prescient.  It is ignitful — meaning it may ignite and explosion of superb customer service that sets a seriously succulent steak on your table.  Like this bone-in Porterhouse filet at the Silver Fox in Richardson, Texas this week.  (That is NOT Photoshopped!)


Silver Fox Porterhouse Filet


I asked my server, “What is the steak your chef would most like to serve tonight?”

She blinked, clearly not knowing. So I commanded her (yes, commanded) to go find out.

A few moments later she returned with a spring in her step and answered, ‘Sir, it’s off the menu. It’s a bone-in Porterhouse filet. How would you like it prepared?”

“Medium, thank you, with a side of grilled (brussel) sprouts.”  (It comes with snap peas and mashed potatoes.)

She marched off to the kitchen, having bagged the elephant, so very, very pleased with herself.

She returned much faster than I expected, and placed the beautifully plated work-of-art before me. The fork leaned over to it in anticipation!

And Wow! — was it delicious. Howl-at-the-moon delicious.

So,  I was a few savory fork-fulls from finishing it off, cleansing my palate between bites with a nice Pinot Noir to re-live the blossom of that first bite, when the chef walked up to my table and — grinning ear to ear, asked, “How do you like your steak?  It’s hard to get this cut in the quality we require, so I thought I’d check.”

“It is wonderful!, I replied, mouth half-full.”  Then we small talked for a moment as he was clearly pleased with the effort.

Afterwards, when the server returned with a concluding cup of coffee, she was beside herself that the chef had visited her table.  And he was so pleased.

So I asked her one more question.

“What IF you asked your chef what he or she wanted to create and serve most during your shift, that would want them to go check with a guest — and then suggest it if it seemed fitting?  What would your relationship with this chef grow into? What would your guests think of your service?”

She offered a very cute fist bump, fittingly returned.


What are your questions that ignite the best from others?


A Time for Creating Moments That Matter

A casual examination of successful C-Suite leaders confirms they are highly motivated, exceptionally driven individuals — they have big motors. They are also touchers; they reach out to others.  They strike up conversations. They observe.   They pay attention. They recognize wants and needs and things of value. The most entrepreneurial of them commercialize the solutions to these needs and wants.

Yet, a big motor is not enough.  The leaders that captivate us are inspiring. They’re paying attention on a whole different, higher level.

They create moments that matter. SistineTouch


They are accessible to sparks of insight, to creative epiphany — to remarkable inspiration.

They fill an infinitely small moment with infinitely great goodness or profoundly great sadness.

They fill the moment.

As I reflect on this Christmastide Season, one assertion of Christianity is an infinitely great and good God filled a small moment in history, considering the short life of The Nazarene, with an infinite potential for good if one would model one’s life accordingly.

To love our neighbors as ourselves.

To not just avoid the murder another human being, but to avoid even anger.

To not just avoid the illicit sexual relation, but avoid the immodest imagination of it.

To not just avoid stealing, but add to others — the essence of commercial and charitable enterprise.

To find and make and fill moments that matter.

Let’s try that, shall we?




Money Isn’t Everything, It Just Pays for Almost Everything

The ProcessTriagDecision Cycle (here)  for establishing and sustaining a culture of continuous business process improvement  begins with the Executive Voice (explained here) setting the organization’s overall Strategic Objectives.  A web search yields some typical examples, here, here, and here — all with a several categories or dimensions.  

When we coach this step in the decision cycle, we insist the executive include a specific financial target.  More precisely, an ability to sustain some level of financial performance, such as Return on Capital, EBITDA, or Operating Cash, for example. 

But what investing or giving back to our community? What about creating a place where great people can do great work?  Want about an enriching employee experience like free back-rubs or a free cafeteria? What about on-site day care? A green-sensitive work place? Clearly, they’re all wonderful. Just understand these amenities require cash flow to pay for almost all of them.


What money cannot buy is decency. Like good manners. Kindness. Self-control. The stuff of integrity and character.  The priceless stuff.


Money isn’t everything, it just pays for almost everything.



Greatness, Earned With Integrity, Remains Transcendent

I was 8 years old in the 2nd grade, when my teacher, Ann Fallis lead our classmates in single file to our New Mexico village school’s music room. It was in October,  during the lunch hour. It was a month after Marilyn Monroe was found dead. It was a week or so before the Cuban Missile Crisis, when we would learn to crawl under our desks if there was an atomic bomb.  It was classmate Beth Wilson getting me sent to the principal’s office for daring me to say a cuss word out loud.

The entire elementary school was seated before a rabbit-eared black and white television.

It was time for baseball class. It was the World Series. Yankees vs. the Giants. Game 5.  (The Yankee’s would go on to win in seven.)

We watched the whole game (Yankee’s winning 5-3), delaying the busses that hauled us home.  On the field were Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Mickey MantleOrlando CepedaJuan Marichal, Willie Mays, and Willie McCovey. Let’s not forget, of course, Roger Maris, Don Larson, Brooks Robinson, Chuck Hiller (hit the first grand slam is series history), and Tony Kubek.

My dad, Duane Rosenberger, of blessed memory, loved baseball and coached our Little League team.  He was in a full leg cast from a broken leg, kicked in by a thoroughbred yearling he was saddle breaking.  My older brother, John (pictured below), threw a terrorizing fastball. Of the many things dad said I remember most, ‘Live your life like the Yankee’s play baseball!’ set a solid, sure compass heading for me.



I’m now on my 62nd lap around the sun.  And I still love baseball. And this year, my Kansas City Royals won it all, in the most resilient, relentless manner in the history of baseball — read Rany Jazarely’s tribute here.

But nothing captured my attention like being in the crowd at the Royals Rally at Union Station, Kansas CIty, Missouri.  The attendance was astonishing — somewhere between 500 and 850 thousand — an amazing number when the Kansas City Metro MSA is a mere 3.2 million in size. One out of three people (for marketing purposes) showed up.  Daughter Tammy and her husband, Kevin (with granddaughter #2, baby Bridget) drove overnight from Denver to stand for 4 hours waiting on Grand Avenue.  Traffic was so stalled that people parked on Interstate 70 (downtown Kansas City) and walked a mile to the parade route.

The KC Royals Rally


What happened — what really happened, was Kansas City’s silent, hardest working, suburban populations full of families and baseball lovers returned for a moment. All of them. Hundreds of thousands of them, with their kids — to give them something good and wonderful and inspiring to tell their grandchildren about someday.

This is the real United States. We are a people that will turn out in numbers to express appreciation for well prepared, single-minded, never give up, I-got-your-back teamwork. For coming from behind 8 of 11 post-season games. It was the evidence of 3/4’s of a million souls affirming they will support decent, leave-it-all-on-the-field sportsmanship.  We will show up and bring our kids for something tragically absent in our public institutions and most notably our national political leadership: transcendent integrity.  We are, in fact, starving for uncompromising moral leadership — the kind of leadership our Royals captured our hearts with.

There were only 3 arrests for disorderly conduct.  Only 1 intoxication arrest.  While there were racial differences everywhere, there was no racism anywhere.

It was the real, genuine, America that loves everything baseball-played-right embodies.

And now hundreds of thousands of kids — no doubt a lot of second graders, will perhaps learn to love the game.

And perhaps live their lives the way the Royals play baseball.

(An earlier version of this post incorrectly suggested the game we watched was game 7, which was played in Candlestick Park, and could not have started at noon, New Mexico time.)

What is Process Triaging? in 2 Minutes

If you boil Process Triaging down to its first essential deliverable, it’s The List of process capability improvement proposals.  This list is created and prioritized for immediate execution by your hand-picked triage team.

Here’s a 2 minute YouTube® clip about it — What is Process Triaging?  The List


The facilitated Process Triage Workshop offers a number of other value propositions, such as team building, team conflict resolution, and continuous improvement team development.  But the bottom line is it generates the list of improvement proposals that will most certainly improve your operational performance if you implement the list.



What are your ‘Get My Thing Rights?’ (Lessons from our construction trades triages)

Practically every incremental improvement to the Process Triaging experience has come from client observations.


A week or so ago we triaged a construction trades company, adding to the our portfolio of case studies.  We’ve triaged a roofing, flat work, electrical (residential dispatch and commercial), post-construction water treatments, and insulation (retrofit and new commercial) companies, as well as a variety of construction contractors who subcontract to them.

While each of these construction trade-based companies provides different services, they follow a similar business model.  Their driveshaft process follows the same pattern:

  1. Win the first impression and reinforce it at every customer touch.
  2. Estimate the job and win the bid with enough margin.
  3. Plan and prepare the crew-day for a have-what-you-need truck roll – skills, tools and supplies.
  4. Complete the work safely, professionally, and  on schedule, with the quality promised, constantly training the less experienced due to high semi-skilled labor turn-over.
  5.  Complete the job accounting paperwork in a timely manner.
  6. Do all the above at a repeatable  top-of-the-Angie’s List® level satisfaction.

What’s remarkable about these six common behaviors in this kind of driveshaft is that every one of these six behavioral indicators can be delegated to someone to get right.  Depending on the size (# of crews) of the company, different team members can keep an eye on each one:

  1. The front desk phone staff and on-site crew chiefs can master the first impression.
  2. The job estimators can master the bidding.
  3. The dispatch manager or crew chief can master the day’s job sheets and crew staging.
  4. The on-site supervisor can master the day’s project work.
  5. The crew chief and the accountants can master the job paperwork.
  6. The customer service and follow-up staff, likely the front desk, can keep an eye on customer satisfaction.

In other words, every driveshaft process has a punch list of  Get My Thing Right’s

So we’re adding this punch list to our 90+Day Process Capability Improvement Plan template.  At least one ‘Get My Thing Right’ for each segment on our triage maps.

What are the ‘Get My Thing Rights’ on your driveshaft?

Now back to listening.



What Triagers Like Most About Our Basic Triaging Workshop

The facts will set you free, to borrow a sacred phrase.

When I have time, I compile the results of the most recent Process Triage workshops, our flagship service.  We always ask participants — the triagers, specifically (not the sponsors or hosts) what they thought of the workshop.

One of the five questions is,’What did you like most?”

September 2015 Sample from the most recent 100+ Basic Workshop participants.

September 2015 Sample from the most recent 100+ Basic Workshop participants.


Read the entire report here.

Launching a Cross-Organizational Project with a Triage

Our ProcessTriage workshop (on a napkin here) is positioned to sync up a highly siloed team and generate a list of a dozen or two high value process capability improvements in one intense day.  Typically , the sponsor is wanting to fix what’s broken by empowering those who do the work to lead the improvements.

The triage workshop is also an effective kick-off event for finalizing a complex project’s work breakdown structure, where experts from different departments — even companies, must sync up.  The scope of work of requires multiple cycles of a similar project (such as touching multiple locations with the same changes).

We were pleased to lead such a pre-launch triage, hosted by Cisco Systems (CSCO), which included knowledge experts from their customer, T-Mobile (TMUS) and Cisco’s subcontractor, General Datatech (GDT).  T-Mobile subcontracted Cisco to make certain changes in a number of network locations.

30-4 Team Picture (2)





The triaging protocol is essentially the same as a break-fix triage.

The triage  team maps a typical project cycle’s (the work of one iteration) work breakdown structure (WBS), as a Project is merely one cycle of a Process — so process mapping is essentially the same as outlining a project WBS.

The  Process Capability Goal for a pre-launch triage focuses on delivering a sustainable level of quality after a few learning curve cycles, and then running additional project iterations on time and on budget.

The Points of Pain are what the team estimates will prevent a successful project launch initially, and inefficiencies to fight off after the learning curve.

The Small Now’s action item-size improvements and Big Now’s project-size improvements are, taken together, the specific deliverables in the project’s risk mitigation strategy.  These Small’s and Big’s are front loaded immediately, especially the action items or projects that must be completed before the first project cycle or iteration.

Hat tip to James Farrell (executive sponsor) and  Tom Tinsley (host) of Cisco Systems.

When to Put Your Partner Hat On

I received a ‘Client in Distress’ call a few weeks ago.  The  triage sponsor calling ‘Mayday!, Mayday!” had been a successful host of a previous triage a year or so ago.

They had contracted with a the top tier telecommunications company to handle some network equipment upgrades and, along with their subcontractor, decreed a ‘freeze all work’ time out period because initial attempts had adversely impacted the telco’s network.

So we triaged some high-rick equipment scenarios with about 20 of the various experts — engineers and field technicians. They nominated and ranked a dozen Small Now’s (action item-size) and Big Now’s (project-size) proposals.  The program mangers (the triage hosts) baked the triage results into decision brief to report out to the telco — their customer.

This conversation with their telco customer was successful, reflecting completed staff work, great solutions, and an action plan to execute immediately.   The customer – supplier relationship is crystal clear in these kind of ‘How we’re going to pick up and wash off the candy we dropped in the dirt.’ encounters.

But what the triage revealed was the customer performed certain tasks in the equipment upgrade process they could not delegate, using equipment databases the supplier could not steward.  In other words, to process of upgrading the network required the customer to remove their customer hat and exchange it for a partner — team member hat.  This necessity was made obvious by the points-of-pain in the triage and the solutions that only the Customer could resolve.

Lesson Learned:  If you subcontract work out to a supplier, but the business process your suppler must manage requires deliverables only you can provide — your subcontracting orientation ends where process execution begins.  At that point, you need and must be a partner.

One of the triage exhibits was the triage / process map with the deliverables the Customer was responsible for, noting the business risks of failure to do so.